Today is Easter Sunday. Lent bagan 40 days ago, Palm Sunday was last week, 2 days ago was Good Friday. Holy Week is about the end of Jesus’ ministry on earth. Not too long ago – it’s been about 4 months – we celebrated the beginning of his life on earth. Do you remember that story?
Joseph and Mary traveled to Bethlehem, to be counted in the Roman census and taxed. Baby Jesus was laid in a manger, shepherds came and worshiped, and the wise men traveled from afar. They followed the star and brought gifts fit for a king. Jesus was presented with gold, frankincense and myrrh. Gold makes sense; no one would mind getting that present. Frankincense is an incense, a sweet perfume. It’s actually a resin, made from the bark of a tree. Myrrh is very similar, but bitter. It’s most common use in the first century was anointing the dead. Gold is an awesome gift, perfume maybe, but… you wouldn’t give a newborn embalming fluid.
Once you know how the story ends, the beginning makes more sense. In literature, it’s called foreshadowing. Jesus was born to die. He came to be a sacrifice. The unusual gift brought by one very wise man reminds us what is really important about Christmas. The gifts that were given to Jesus pale in comparison to the gift of Jesus. Throughout his ministry Jesus understood his mission, even when his followers could not. The disciples were told plainly that the Son of Man must suffer many things, be rejected by men, even that he must die. Jesus told them, more than once, that he would rise again. Eventually they were afraid to ask.
The real story of course begins before the incarnation and does not end with the crucifixion. Today is Easter, the celebration of Jesus’ resurrection. That still isn’t the end of the story. Jesus wasn’t just resurrected; he is the resurrection. The story of God’s coming kingdom isn’t over yet.